Monday, December 31, 2012

Morning Ride

It's been at least a month since I've used my cycling muscles so I took the Elephant out on the Children of the Sun Trail this morning. The freeze-thaw cycle made the foot and paw prints bumpy and the bike tracks a bit unnerving, but it was pleasant going for the most part and a nice workout.
Crossing the bridge near the southern end.

 The trail head at the south end on Freya.

Someone else had come through with some seriously knobby tires.
My track is on the left.

Natural Running

Pretty funny but there's a potty mouth warning so watch it around work, kids who don't go to public school, and people who still live in the Victorian age.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walkability Score Reduction

During my morning run I think I spent over half the distance running in the street because the uneven frozen surfaces of the uncleared sidewalks make walking, let alone running, rather difficult. I noticed a couple of contributing factors.
Poor design. The sidewalk is next to the roadway and is covered by snowplows.
Not my problem. The business's sidewalk is pristine and the public one is now blocked. 
Some residents clear the snow. Some don't.

Don't let the snow keep you from walking or running. But make yourself visible and keep a sharp eye out for traffic.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday Shooting

During my morning run, Kathy and my sister, Barb, went for a power walk. Afterwards, Barb invited us to go skeet shooting after lunch. Is she kidding? Who doesn't want to shoot guns in 25-degree weather during a light snowfall?

I've never shot clay pigeons before and it's been years since I fired any weapon but I'm the only member of the family to have any weapons familiarity. Kathy, Josh, and Steph have never fired a weapon before but they were excited to learn. Barb and two of her sons, Trevor and Parker (both of them excellent shooters), led us northward with 300 bright orange biodegradable flying saucers and more than enough shotgun shells to intercept their flights with. As would be expected, many of the targets hurled for us beginners landed unscathed so it was real exciting for us when we did hit one.
 Kathy's first shot ever while attended to by nephew Trevor.

 Josh nails one.

Steph does her best Annie Oakley.

Fun times.

Becoming Beastly

This morning I ran eight miles on the Children of the Sun Trail. Can you believe I didn't see another soul the entire time? The trail varied between being snow covered and ice encrusted. The ice was mostly where the foot prints, paw prints, and bike tracks crushed the snow. And there's one spot where the snowplows clearing the adjacent NSC roadway flung the mess onto the trail, making it a bit rougher. Combined with the 22-degree temp it was quite the change from the warmth and sunshine I was enjoying while running along the beach in Florida just four days ago. But I'm not complaining. I like the cold, too. During today's run I felt like Rocky IV. Only the snow wasn't thigh deep. And I wasn't carrying a tree trunk. And no cold-blooded blonde giant wanted to destroy me. And I'm not nearly as ripped. Well, I'm not ripped at all. But it was cold.

I plan to do more long distance running this next year. And I plan on training harder on the bike. So what's up with that?

During the last cyclocross season I stumbled across an article giving a single tip to improve your racing performance. Drop ten pounds. Simple as that. Just about everybody can afford to lose ten pounds and you'll be a little stronger and faster if you do. I didn't feel like trying that in the middle of the season but it gave me something to think about for next year.

I raced on the west side of the state a couple of times and seem to be more competitive there. There are a couple of contributing factors. Our Cat 4 races are 45 minutes long. Theirs are 30 minutes. It's easier to go all out for a shorter amount of time. Not that my all out amounts to that much, but you get my drift. Our age group breaks are at 40, 50, and 60 years of age. Theirs are at 35, 45, and 55 years. My racing age this year was 56 so I wasn't going up against 50-year-old whippersnappers in the west side races. They have many more participants on the west side, which is to be expected given the population base, so I was always battling someone. In our races I was usually battling one guy. And it was usually the same guy. But he's a great guy. And he's a beast.
A potential beast this way comes.
I mean that in a good way. Steve Meyer was my nemesis for almost the entire cross season. It would be easy to assume that since he finished one ahead of me in a number of races, that he and I were evenly matched. We were but only because Steve already had one race under his belt. Plus he rode a single speed. And to even things out a little more, he would crash once or twice. But Steve, although he's a beast, races with a smile on his face, always has an encouraging word, and is a great sportsman.

So here's my plan for next year. I'm dropping at least ten pounds but probably lose more. I'm already down seven so I'm on a roll, but I'm not in a rush. My bike commuting will be done like I'm going all out for a race. I'll throw in a couple of criteriums for fun. And I have a list of training regimens and exercises to follow to make myself more fit.

And next year I will be more beastly. But like Steve, very pleasant about it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

While I Was Gone

We left Spokane on the same day as the school massacre in Newton, CT. On the following day, the Spokesman Review published an article that led with this sentence.

The tragedy in Connecticut could happen here.

That really bothered me as unnecessary fear mongering. No such warning prefaced the reporting about the mall shooting that took place in Portland just three days before, or the theater shooting in Aurora, CO, last July or any other shootings that have taken place in churches, shopping malls, colleges, the home, Post Offices, and elsewhere. Shootings happen everywhere and many innocent lives are lost every day. It's only the worst crimes that get our attention. 

For a little while.

Being on a cruise, I was off the grid for a week and I essentially stayed that way for the remainder of our vacation. But the ship had some television, which included Fox News and CNN. I normally never watch either one but the few times I checked them it seemed like it was nonstop 24-hour repetitious talk about the Newton massacre and guns. I did happen to catch our own Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers making a rather sad statement.

“I think we have to be careful about new, suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

If only her concern with Fourth Amendment rights, such as extending Patriot Act provisions and granting immunity to telecom companies, was as strong as her concern with Second Amendment rights. And crazy people.

By the way, Congresswoman, if you check the links I provided above, you'll find this happens. All. The. Time. And the last thing I want to see is a teacher carrying a concealed weapon at school. What if the teacher is a crazy person?

I heard ridiculous "causes" of the shooting being proffered, such as no men working at the school and God being taken out of our schools. No such reasons were given for shootings occurring at theaters, churches, shopping malls, or even at house fires. The religious agenda doesn't work so well in those examples as it does in public schools. And then there was Wayne LaPierre's idiotic proposal to have armed guards at every school. One wonders why we don't have armed guards at theaters, churches, shopping malls, and house fires. The gun nut crazy train is headed for the cliff. I hope they make it over the edge with plenty of clearance.

Speaking of extremists, I heard House Speaker Boehner came up with an alternative for avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of our own political leaders' making. Unfortunately, a number of his party members rose up like bible thumping pharmacists and said, "No Plan B for you!" How ironic.

I'm sure there was much more covered in the 24/7 news cycle, but I avoided it. That's what vacations are for.

A Well Deserved Break

Last May, Kathy attended the graduation ceremony at Gonzaga University even though she hadn't quite finished her degree program by then. The rule is that if you're finishing in the calendar year then you attend the May ceremony. She didn't officially finish until Dec 14. 

During the last 5-1/2 years, Kathy has completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from WSU and her Master of Science in Nursing Health Care Leadership at Gonzaga. My wife of 32-1/2 years went to school full time while working half time. Unless you've experienced this as a spouse, I don't know that you can truly appreciate just how much time and effort this takes. But I digress.

We decided we would take a vacation to celebrate her achievement and take some well deserved down time so we scheduled ourselves to go on a cruise in the eastern Caribbean and then follow that with some leisure time in South Beach. Kathy completed her remaining homework on Dec 13. We left the next day.

Geoff joined us from San Francisco, thus making it a true family vacation. On Dec 13, he completed the paperwork and paid the necessary fees to establish the LLC for the startup he is working on. If you checked out the link and don't understand what it's about, I can provide a simple explanation. It allows two programmers to work together on the same code (pair programming) regardless of where they are located. It's a small market, but it's a large enough to make a living from it. But I digress again. We all went on vacation together.

This ship had a couple of FlowRider systems on it and the kids each took lessons.
That water is moving pretty fast. When you fall, you are unceremoniously flushed away into the back area.
I was fearful my aging body would pay dearly so I abstained.

The cruise photogs are always taking your picture at every opportunity.
This opportunity was one of the formal dinner nights. Notice how my great-looking family makes me look halfway presentable?
Just finished snorkeling at St Thomas. It was Kathy's first time and she loved it.
The kids playing in the water on the French side of St Maarten. This was the wave that swept Josh's sunglasses out to sea.

Kathy and I are well aware that it's easy to over eat on a cruise so we made sure we paid attention to what we ate and took time to exercise. We both used the track instead of the fitness facility. As usual I got lots of strange looks from people who are unable to fathom running barefoot. But there was a young man from Brazil who waited for me to finish one day and asked me about it. I showed him enough to get started and wished him well. Slowly but surely, one at a time, you too will be assimilated. Anyway, as far as the weight watching went, I lost two pounds and Kathy found them. Not too bad.

After the cruise we spent a few days just hanging out in South Beach. We went out to the Everglades where we caught an airboat ride. Flying across water and vegetation was pretty cool. 
Seeing the wildlife was also cool.
I patiently waited as this egret poised for the kill.
Lightning fast. I was surprised by the big splash.
On our last day we rented bikes and cruised around South Beach. By now we were longing for home where all those familiar things about a home were beckoning to us: sleeping in our own beds, cooking our own meals, enjoying a cup of tea with the morning newspaper, shoveling snow from the--wait, not that one. It was a fun and relaxing trip but we were thankful to arrive home late last night.

Now that she's done with school, Kathy has all kinds of free time. I wonder if I could get away with handing her the snow shovel.

Friday, December 14, 2012


President Obama on marijuana.

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama said. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

Well, federal law only recognizes marriage as a union of a man and a woman and yet there are state laws that allow same-sex marriages.

Geeze, how to reconcile that.

The Darkness

Our former congressman, George Nethercutt, has struck gold yet again in an op-ed published by the Inlander.

A Spokane woman, reflecting the despair of 60 million Romney voters, recently told me, “I’m just not sure where our country is headed anymore.” This sentiment is echoed daily by those wary about what a second Obama term means for Americans desiring more predictable, customary U.S. public policies and frustrated by a stagnant economy. Feeling stuck with a president whose policy agenda has swung leftward unsettles half our nation. But where does that half go when the darkness of liberal culture, excessive federal spending, staggering national debt, stifling regulatory rules and looming tax pressures descend upon us? 

Let me make sure I got this right. Half the country doesn't know where their country is headed any more, misses predictable, customary public policies, and doesn't know where to go because of the darkness of liberal culture, excessive federal spending, staggering national debt, stifling regulatory rules and looming tax pressures.


Mr Nethercutt longs for the predictable days where people could be denied medical insurance for pre-existing conditions and could have their insurance arbitrarily cancelled because they were costing too much. He pines for unfunded wars combined with tax cuts so the country not only spends more but increases its debt more dramatically by choking off its revenue. He looks back at the good old days when rivers were lifeless and burst into flames and the air poisoned our children's lungs.

Yet, a darkness has descended upon America.

Mr Nethercutt says nothing about the surveillance state recording our electronic transmissions. He's silent on the use of remote controlled aircraft used in extrajudicial killing, including that of American citizens. He turns away from the state's secrets excuse used to deny justice for those who've been spied upon, kidnapped, or tortured by our government.

The darkness of liberal culture indeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Aliens Among Us

In today's Spokesman Review we have a story about Reed McColm, a Canadian who has been in the US for 32 years and who recently was not allowed to re-enter because his visa had expired. (By the way, I've seen him perform in a couple of productions and he is hilarious.)

“I’m paying my taxes and I’m following the rules and I’m not getting arrested,” McColm said. “Over time, you start to assume all is well.”

McColm had an H-1B visa since 1995, he said, which is issued to temporary workers with specific, highly specialized skills such as performing arts. Of the more than 7 million visas issued in fiscal year 2011, about 129,000 fell under that category, according to the U.S. Department of State.

But McColm unwittingly violated the requirements of his visa, he said; he should have obtained a new visa every time he participated in a new play or moved to a different theater. He also discovered the visa was only supposed to be good for six years; he kept renewing his for 17.

“I guess I was deliberately dumb, because I didn’t want to know more than I absolutely had to know to stay,” McColm said. “Immigration visas are very complicated, and the time of lawyers can be very expensive.”

Something like 40% of illegal immigrants are here because they entered the country with a valid visa and did not leave when their visa expired. Homeland Security doesn't have the manpower to track down every individual when their visa expires so as long as the individual keeps a somewhat low profile, they can pretty much stay as long as they want.

What's puzzling about this story is that Mr McColm says he received an H1B visa in 1995. Since their creation in 1990, H1B visas have always been granted for a three-year time period and can be extended one time only for another three-year period. (There's a ten year limit for those working in the Dept of Defense.)  Plus, it's the employer who petitions for the visa in conjuction with the alien. It is also a dual-intent visa, which allows foreign workers to remain in the US while applying for permanent residency. 

For Mr McColm to say he renewed his visa every year for 17 years raises a some questions. What visa was he using for the first 15 years he was in the US? Why did he get an H1B visa in 1995 and who was the employer petitioning for him at the time? Did his employer petition to renew his H1B visa in 1998? Did Mr McColm apply for permanent residency during the three or six years he had a valid H1B visa? What exactly was he renewing every year for 17 years?

So, yeah. Puzzling.

Bit of visa trivia: According to the latest report from Homeland Security, 761 fashion models were granted H1B visas in fiscal year 2011.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drawing Conclusions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report on 2011 motor vehicle crashes.
clicken to embiggen

Almost as an afterthought, the numbers of killed and injured pedestrians, cyclists and other/unknown (?) were also included in a chart. More pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year but far fewer were injured. Across the country pundits, cyclists, and cyclist pundits wonder, "What does this mean?"

What these numbers mean is pretty straightforward. 
  (1) They were counted. 
  (2) We are getting more efficient at killing cyclists and pedestrians, but not so much for other/unknowns. If only we knew what they were so we could aim for them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nevermind The Fear Mongering - Talk About Some Real Dangers

I was reading the Seattle Times online during my bus ride home after work when I noticed a link entitled "11 Dangerous Teenage Trends All Parents Should Know About". Being a parent, I thought I'd check it out since the Internet has so much information and this is something I apparently should know about. The site irritatingly listed one trend per page and I was near the end of the bus trip so I didn't get through all of them until I got home. After reviewing them I asked a teen, my own daughter, what she knew about these dangerous trends.

I put her response after each.

Planking: The activity involves lying face-down on any surface. Once in position, the participant's friends take a picture and share it on the web through various social media outlets. It might sound harmless and even funny, but some teens have expanded their creativity and planked on unusual and sometimes dangerous surfaces such as rooftops, vehicles, or escalators. Many have been injured and at least one death has been reported.

Oh, that's people lying on the kitchen counter like this (demonstrates) and then saying, "Take a picture." I never thought of it as dangerous but I have seen some sketchy places like the top of a totem pole.

Vodka Eyeballing: Teenagers are quick to find new ways to consume alcohol without leaving the obvious smell of booze on their breath. This new trend involves pouring vodka directly into the eye, passing through the mucous membrane and entering the bloodstream through the veins around the eyeball. The result is a quick buzz. If done often, this activity can burn or scar the cornea, and in some extreme cases cause blindness. 

What? That would burn so bad. Who would do that?

The Choking game: This game creates a momentary high parallel to that caused by the use of certain drugs. The child uses various restraints to cut off the flow of blood to the brain, depriving it of oxygen. After the restraint is released, the blood immediately rushes back into the brain and evokes that natural high feeling. Many who have played this game have passed out and lost consciousness. 

What? People do that? Now that's just stupid.

Vodka Gummy Bears: News broke recently about YouTube videos that showed how to infuse candy with alcohol. Kids now have access to a step-by-step tutorial on how to soak gummy bears in vodka and consume them in plain view just about anywhere. The result is an instant buzz not easily detected on their breath. The candy is often consumed in big amounts, rapidly leading to high levels of intoxication. Kids are unaware of the amounts of alcohol in each piece of candy so they begin popping gummy bears until the buzz kicks in. Reports have shown that several kids have ended up in the E.R. being treated for alcohol poisoning. 

Yeah, I've heard of that. The bears just dissolve.

Smoking Smarties: Also fueled by internet tutorials, smoking smarties involve crushing the candy until it is in powder form. Once fully dissolved, an opening is made on the side of the package to allow puffing the sugar powder and exhaling it like cigarette smoke. Inhaling the sugar powder from the smarties candies can cause infections, chronic coughing, and even choking. 

Yeah, we did that at camp once. It didn't do anything.

Tampon Drunkenness: A tampon is soaked in alcohol and then inserted in a girl's vagina or a boy's rectum. The alcohol is soaked up by the vaginal walls, creating the feeling of being intoxicated without sipping alcohol directly. Besides the obvious risks to those private body parts, the tampon can soak up about a shot of alcohol, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning. 

What? You gotta be kidding me?

Distilling Hand Sanitizer: This inexpensive and very accessible product is easy for kids to get their hands on. Salt is used to separate the high quantities of alcohol found in hand sanitizer, which is then consumed. The amount of alcohol used by distilling hand sanitizers is equivalent to that of a shot of hard liquor. Several cases have been reported, and a few teenagers have required medical treatment for alcohol poising as a result. Parents are urged to buy the foam type of sanitizer or ones that do not list ethanol as their prime ingredient. 

No. You don't drink hand sanitizer.

Car Surfing: Here's how it works: teenagers climb on top of a car, hold onto the roof, and pretend to surf while the driver hits the pedal and drives. The faster the car, the greater the fame for the rooftop surfer. Some kids have gone to the extreme, and tried surfing on top of trains and subways. 

That's crazy.

Purple Drink: This drink has become famous because of various rap artists who drink it in videos. Even NFL players have gotten in on the act. The drink includes a mixture of Sprite, Jolly Ranchers, and codeine cough syrup. It is highly toxic and can cause hallucinations, unresponsiveness, and lethargy. This concoction has been glamorized in the music industry so much so that a style of music has even been created to showcase the effects of the drink. 

I've heard of that. I don't know what the Jolly Ranchers are for. This website allows the user to anonymously chat online with anyone without the use of security blocks or filters. The website is easy to use and does not protect users from adult content or disturbing images. Once you're logged on, the site pairs you up with a stranger. The user can choose to skip and go to the next pairing, or chat with that individual. 

I got on that once with my girl friend and we saw lots of penises. It got pretty disgusting.

Bath Salts: Commonly referred to as "Purple Wave" and "Bliss," this drug contains high levels of mephedrone, methylone, and MDPV, three drugs that cause hallucinations when smoked, snorted, or injected. Until recently, these salts were often found in smoke shops and were sold legally in the U.S. This drug can cause paranoia, suicidal behavior, and chest pain.

That's why I wanted to watch that show (note: it was either Addicted or Intervention) about that girl who was addicted to bath salts.

I was curious as to why this posting from June 2012 would appear on the Seattle Times page. It was in an area labeled More from the Web so I'm assuming it was a sponsored link and I made the site a couple of pennies by clicking on it. 

I also wondered if these dangerous teen trends had been written about elsewhere and hit the jackpot. Looking around I found the identical article here but posted under someone else's name. If eleven trends is too many, you could refer to the seven most dangerous trends instead. If you like even numbers, then read the 10 most dangerous trends. And if that's not enough for you, aim high for the 24 most dangerous trends.

You'll notice these are presented as trends but without any supporting data to back that up. Just because some kids do something stupid, it doesn't mean there's a trend.

When I was a kid, way back in the 60's, we had our own dangerous trends. Like see how close we could get to each other's feet without hitting them with a dart. I'll never forget pulling that dart from the back of my hand that one time. We'd play fighter pilot on bicycles. You maneuvered like crazy and get on someone's tail and keep hitting their rear wheel with your front wheel until they crashed. We dipped Skoal, ran out and thumped cars as they drove by and pretend we got hit, shoot bottle rockets at police cars, and all kinds of idiotic stuff. Stupid, yes. But not dangerous trends.

No, if you want to warn parents about dangerous teen trends, write about subjects like  student debt, teen obesity, teen bullying, or teen pregnancy. Subjects like those have far greater consequences affecting many more young people than those few idiots who try sticking a vodka-soaked tampon up their butts.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Towelie's Sage Advice

I had a very relaxing run during lunch today. Puffs of vapor marked every breath as I blithely ambled for four miles. Other than the pure joy of running, the high point was when I was treated to a bald eagle passing overhead while I crossed the Sandifur Bridge. The combination of tall trees, a bird of prey's large wingspan beckoning to me, and a subdued river murmuring beneath me was a spiritual experience that provided a welcome respite banishing city life off into the distance.

So why do I have a TED talk about How to Use a Paper Towel at the beginning of this otherwise empyrean-related post?

I forgot Towelie's advice.

For the third time in 14 years I had to do the dance of the paper towels. If you're not familiar with the dance, let me explain.

 - Do some sort of physical exertion that necessitates a shower at work.
 - Go to take a shower at work.
 - Realize you forgot to bring a towel to work.
 - Dry yourself using the paper towels at work.

Fortunately, I watched this TED talk a couple months ago and I remembered Joe Smith's advice for optimizing your paper towel use. Shake 12 times and fold the towel in half. That technique with one paper towel works great if you're only drying your hands, but in my case I'm dealing with a lot more surface area. Allow me to share some tips for drying your whole body.

Using your hands like squeegees, push the water drops down your arms, down the front of your body, and down your legs. Then shake twelve times. This is just as much a quasi-family as it is a quasi-cerebral blog so don't get carried away with the visuals, okay? You shake your hands and feet. Remember, this is in the interest of science and doing right by the environment. Don't try shaking both your feet at the same time.

Since we're dealing with more than just wet hands, instead of folding the paper towel in half, use two towels layered together so you have a larger surface area at your disposal and you can still take advantage of the interstitial suspension. See? Science.

Where does dancing come in? That's the part where you reach around to dry your back and turn in circles like a puppy chasing its tail as you keep trying to reach that just-out-reach spot you need to get so your shirt doesn't look like it's sweat stuck when you put it back on. Now use your other hand and turn the other way. Consider this a warm down stretch to complement your exercise program.

You might enjoy some musical accompaniment to complete the scene. Maybe Imagine Dragon's "On Top Of The World" or Atmosphere's "Best Day" depending on your mood and perspective. (NSFW potty mouth warning)

Cool, I didn't use the politics tag.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Great Find

I stopped by a couple if thrift stores yesterday to flip through generic issue albums of Christmas music, classical, and greatest hits to see if I could find something different. This album caught my eye. I've never heard of Terry Reid and the record was issued during one of my high school years - 1973. For a dime I was hardly taking a big risk. I started ripping it today and I was amazed at what I was hearing so I hit the Interwebs to see what I could find out about Terry Reid and this record.

Reid, a very talented musician, is apparently most famous for what he did not become--a member of Led Zeppelin. You can read about the album and its reissue in 2003 and you can read about Terry Reid on Wikipedia. Score seven more songs for my library.

FBC Festivus Ride

 It's that time of year again.

Stoker Santa.

 Party trolley.

 Fast racing.

 Slow racing.

 Close to 100 riders.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Faulty Depth Perception

It amazes (and pains) me that only one toe hit the rock I was trying to clear. But I'm thankful it's only one. Ow!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blog Fodder Wish Is Granted

I tend to daydream, ponder, and even excogitate (fist bump the Thesaurus) while I'm running. During today's lunchtime run, I followed the Centennial Trail through Riverfront to Mission Park and back. I was plodding through a misty curtain of light snowflakes when a random thought jumped into the front of the line.

It dawned on me that whenever I'm on the trail, before I move to one side or the other, I always look behind me to make sure I don't get in the way of a faster mover coming from behind me. I do this whether I'm on foot or on the bike. So then I got to wondering,

How long ago did I adopt this wise, safety-ensuring behavior? Could this astuteness somehow be used in a metaphor? Maybe I could share this sagacity in a blog entry.

Intensely focused though I was, I recognized I'd reached the parking lot at Mission Park and it was time to turn around. I did a U-turn on the path and found myself closing the gap on a cyclist whom I would have seen and avoided had I looked back but now had forced to take evasive action so he wouldn't hit the stupid look on my face.

There's no telling what flash of genius will strike me tomorrow. Hopefully, not something big enough to hurt me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bet You Can't Say Just One

Our poor representative, the highest ranking women in the Republican Party, cannot provide one specific example of a spending cut. You'd think that after all these months of harping about spending cuts, she could at least come up with one. After dinner mints at state dinners. Anything. How hard can it be if you're one of the leaders and you know what you're doing?

The Good Ol' Days

I was passing by a recycle bin at work and this book was whistling, waving, and otherwise trying to get my attention. I love old books and this was especially interesting because I've never seen a phone book that pre-dates me. Not by much, but still. I was immediately intrigued. Where is Hastings? What was the Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Company? Off to the Google....
The listing of five-digit phone numbers are for Hastings, Nebraska, about 75 miles west of Lincoln. The population in 1950 was about 20,000.  The Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Company and it's president and chairman, Frank H. Woods, were veritable trailblazers in the telephone field during the first decade of the 20th century. The company was an early pioneer in the use of a dialing system in place of operators connecting calls. The Bell Company didn't think it would work! Go figure. Hastings, well away from the ocean shores, was also home to the largest Naval Ammunition Depot during WWII.

There. We've all learned something today.

Thumbing through the yellow pages, I found that you had to go to Grace's Bike & Key Shop (authorized Schwinn dealer) for your cycling needs. The only music school listed is Mayo's School of Accordian, dealer for Pancordian and Crucianelli. Ladies got their furs serviced at Geyermans Women's Wear. A couple of rendering plants advertised they would pick up dead livestock for free. Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, Grapette, Nehi-Royal Crown, and Seven-Up each had bottling plants in town. The FBI had an office in the Post Office building and yes, that was actually listed in the yellow pages. The KHAS radio station still serves Hastings and the surrounding area today and Hasting College is still going strong.
Kids, this was how I used a phone back in the day. But we didn't have a hook latch with which we could listen in on calls determine if the line was busy.
Notice that the phone is for the exclusive use of the subscriber, members of his family, and/or employees. No, you cannot borrow the phone to make a call. The section labeled Telephone Recording Signal is interesting. Would you please disconnect the recording machine?

I'm going to contact the museum and see if they'd like this bit of Americana.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Red Shirt, Green Shirt - What Could Coal Hurt?

One thousand chairs and horrible acoustics awaited the four to five hundred people who showed up at the Spokane Country Fair Expo to comment or hear comments on the scope of the environmental impact statement on the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Of those wishing to expand the EIS to include Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana (against coal), many wore red shirts sporting the name, wore "No Coal Exports" stickers, and/or held up "No Coal Exports" signs. Those speaking for limiting the EIS to Whatcom County (pro coal and/or pro jobs) ironically wore green shirts with "Let's Get To Work" on the back. Red shirts dramatically outnumbered green shirts. "No Coal Exports" signs overwhelmed the mix of pro signs. (I'll refer to each "side" as red shirts and green shirts.) I figure red shirts outnumbered green shirts by 6 or 7 to 1.

Only the first 75 people would get to make verbal comments. There was some consternation earlier in the day when about 35 green shirts, some of them being paid to stand in line, took places in line today. The first five in line were red shirts who showed up around 7:45 am.
 Red shirts.

 Green shirts.

The audience was informed of the rules: Commenters have two minutes, no cheering or clapping, hold up your hands or wave a sign to show approval, and a thumbs down if you disapprove. Helpful comments included providing alternatives, affected resources, adverse impacts, and ways to minimize effects. Anything else would not be considered substantive. With that, Ben Stuckart, City Council president, was the first speaker, followed by four more red shirts from Spokane and Montana. The next 35-40 speakers were green shirts.

Green shirt commenters spoke about the need for jobs, boosting the economy, and there was a remark or two about the misguided red shirts. My impression was that most of the comments were not substantive. While the green shirts were speaking, I talked to a man wearing a green shirt who had #36. He said he was from Spokane and he was speaking because he was tired of the environmentalists running everything. He realizes we need to take care of the environment, but we need jobs, too. And even though the jobs were in Whatcom County and not in Spokane, the state and the economy as a whole would benefit. I asked him about the guidance concerning substantive comments and he misunderstood what I was talking about. He pointed to a blue sheet of paper on his chair, "It's right there. It's just bullet points." Bullet points? I calmly asked if I could see it. He rolled it up and gave me a suspicious look. "No."

Well, then.

I ran into Bart Mihailovich, Spokane Riverkeeper. He was thrilled that the hearing was taking place in Spokane and that so many people had attended. He shared my concern about the comments being substantive. Bart arrived in time to be included in the 75, but had given his number to a little girl who wanted to speak. Nice.
Pens are in hand.

I later ran into City Councilman Jon Snyder who had a different take on the comments. "Every time you see them (the panel) pick up a pen, you're saying something they're concerned about." Jon had some very nice rhetoric in his two-minute speech. He was concise and on point. He questioned the impact of increased gate times on emergency responders and the transportation plan. Pens were in the panel members' hands. 

As the evening progressed, the red shirt comments did address more impacts on the community, water, air, and more of the various communities being represented. I also noticed that after the bulk of the green shorts spoke, their numbers noticeably dwindled.

By the way, when speaker #36 was called up, the gentleman I spoke with was nowhere to be seen and had been replaced by former state senator Jeff Baxter of Spokane Valley. Well, it's not like Ben Stuckart arrived at 7:30 am and waited all day so he could be the first speaker.

Whenever there was applause or an outburst, the announcer would chastise everyone with a reminder that they were not to do so. After the fourth-grade girl from Roosevelt Elementary spoke, the crowd cheered.

"I'm going to let that one go."

Darn right you will. 

The hearing was moving so smoothly that they announced that more people could sign up to speak and they would get as many in as possible until 7:00 pm. Several ran to the sign up desk. I left around 6:20 so I could get home at a decent time since I was letting Spokane Transit do the driving.

You have until Jan 21, 2013, to submit your comments and there's an easy online form you can use.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Coal For Christmas

To read the guest opinion in today's Spokesman Review, you'd think that coal trains are relatively harmless and are the next best thing to Christmas. 

Image shamelessly copied
from Fish & Bicycles
This brings us to the subject of coal trains, which have long been traveling through Spokane. World demand for energy sources is resulting in planned transport of coal on BNSF trains from the Wyoming and Montana coal fields through Spokane to proposed port facilities on the Oregon and Washington coasts. The Washington facilities would bring much-needed jobs to our state and would promote international trade, the latter of which has had a positive impact on our nation’s trade balance.

Greater Spokane Incorporated supports federally regulated interstate commerce and international trade, and is a member of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports. The Alliance supports the construction of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which will be undergoing an environmental impact study that – when finalized – will have incorporated all public and agency comments and proposed mitigation. The Gateway Pacific Terminal would create an estimated 3,500 to 4,400 new jobs during construction, and 300-400 permanent family wage jobs that will generate an estimated $74 million to $92 million in state and local revenues.   

Along with the contribution that burning the coal will make towards accelerating climate change, the concern in Spokane is about people being exposed to the increased amount of diesel exhaust and coal dust from sixty 1 to 1-1/2 mile-long trains each day. Last June, the city council passed a resolution expressing their concern and asking that one of the environmental impact hearings be held here. As it happens, a hearing is being held this Tuesday from 4-7 pm, at the Spokane County Fairgrounds Plaza.

Got something to say? Show up and say it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

And The Winner Is...

Lottery winnings have been in the news lately. And why not? What better way to induce people to participate in a scheme where they have a better chance of being struck by lightning (1 in 10,000 in your lifetime and 1 in 1,000,000 in a given year) than by highlighting the big winners. And there's always a big winner because the prize keeps building until at least one ticket matches up.

But this post isn't sour grapes about the lottery. I haven't bought a ticket in years. By the way, if you're interested in what happens to the money that doesn't get paid out, check out the Washington State Lottery Annual Reports and RCW 67.70.

Anyway, Spokane just had a 4.2 million dollar winner who wished to remain anonymous. The Review made a point of stating that they filed a public disclosure request to get the winner's name. That set off a mild firestorm of comments condemning the Review for intruding on the winner's privacy.

First of all, the Review didn't say what they were going to do with the information. Secondly, the commenters assume that the Review is purposely trying to expose the winner's name. Would they publish the name just because they can? I don't think so. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt. From a human interest perspective there might be a story. If the winner chooses not to participate and still wished to remain anonymous, I think the Review would respect that. But in order to find out, they have to be able to ask them first.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gingerbread House Party

I narrowly avoided a disaster this year. When I started baking the pieces for the houses a couple weeks ago, I read the recipe incorrectly and did not add enough sugar to the dough. I knew something was wrong, but I just couldn't figure it out. The dough was elastic. When I rolled it out it would shrink back. Consequently, the pieces were smaller than normal in the first batch, but they were perfect houses for the little kids. I compensated by cutting the pieces larger. That helped but they would still shrink inconsistently and make it difficult get the pieces to match up. It was so much easier once I realized my mistake with the sugar. In spite of my best efforts to mess it up, yesterday's gingerbread house party was another success.

All the houses assembled and ready to be made pretty. Notice the difference between the front center house and the one right behind it? Dat wus me.

 The kid's table...

...and the overrated adult table.

The first time we've had a deer hang. 
Excellent detail work on the window cut outs.

From flamboyant to humble - front view.

Back view. Putting your name on guarantees nobody 
gets confused and takes the wrong house.

My sister, Barb, had an idea and we merged our creative energies on this one. It has a garbage pit, blue tarps, slapped on siding, a successfully hunted animal mounted on the back of the house, duct tape on the windows, an overstuffed chair on the porch, an RV parked in the back with a stone patio and plastic grass walkway, and a free stained couch for the taking.

It's a gingerbread shotgun shack.
Please wipe your feet before coming inside.